"A. M. A Azeez, Founder of the All Ceylon YMMA Conference" - By Khalid M. Farouk


The All Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association Conference is primarily a Youth and Youth serving Community based organization founded on the 30th April 1950, which has rendered yeoman service to the community over the last 64 years. The Founder was Dr. A.M.A. Azeez, eminent educationist, efficient administrator, erudite scholar, visionary and community worker.

Dr. A. M. A Azeez

Aboobucker Mohamed Abdul Azeez was born in Vannarponnai, Jaffna on 4th October, 1911. His  education in the Hindu schools R.K.M. Vaidyeshwara Vidyalayam and Jaffna Hindu College, and his training under distinguished teachers had stood in good stead in his later life, particularly for his invaluable contribution to the community in many spheres. Azeez graduated from the University of London with Honours in History in 1933 and proceeded to Cambridge University on being awarded the Government Arts Scholarship. On his success in the Ceylon Civil Service Examination as the first Muslim Civil Servant, he abandoned his post-graduate studies and returned home to embark on an administrative career in 1935.

In 1933 Azeez developed a passionate attachment to the name Young Men’s Muslim Association (YMMA), chiefly as a result of reading ‘Whither Islam’ Edited by H.A.R. Gibb, in which it was said that the YMMA movement which had started in Egypt was spreading to the neighbouring countries.

In April 1942, Azeez was transferred at short notice as Assistant Government Agent, Kalmunai, with specific instructions to boost food production, due to the shortage of food during the Second World War. His great achievement, if not his greatest, within two years was lauded. He was transferred back to Colombo in January 1944 and soon after in February he was sent as A.G.A. to the Kandy Kachcheri.

The Kandy Muslim Association, which was inaugurated in 1915, elected Azeez as its President. He proposed a resolution to change the name to Kandy YMMA which was accepted unanimously. He also initiated the publication of ‘Young Muslim’ in 1945. In his Presidential Address on 29.7.1944, Azeez stated that ‘Y.M’. should not refer to ‘Young Men’ in the physical sense of a certain age or age limit, but in the mental sense of the possession of the qualities of idealism, alertness and enthusiasm. Therefore, there is a place in the YMMA for men of all ages, for the young as well as the old. In 1945 Azeez was transferred to Colombo at short notice and assumed duties as Information Officer.

In 1947 Azeez and his wife Ummu visited England. During this trip they spent few days in Egypt and Azeez visited the YMMA in Cairo in February 1947. He made a deep study of its organizational structure and other matters. This gave him the inspiration to initiate a YMMA movement in Ceylon. In August 1948 he retired from the C.C.S. and succeeded Dr. T.B. Jayah as Principal of Zahira College, Colombo, and revived his ideas about the YMMA movement.

There were many YMMAs at that time, the oldest was the Mutwal YMMA formed in 1917 by H.A. Marjan and M.C.M. Kaleel (later a Cabinet Minister) was the President. M. Lafir Cassim, later a stalwart of the YMMA, first met A.M.A. Azeez in 1948 to discuss about forming the Maligawatte YMMA, which was founded in January 1949. The YMMAs functioned independently and in isolation. They did not have a motto or crest.

On 2.4.1950, the YMMAs of Maligawatte, Central, Aluthkade, Kuruwe Street and Mutwal met at Zahira College with A.M.A. Azeez as Chairman. They decided unanimously to inaugurate the All Ceylon YMMA Conference with the objective of consolidating all existing YMMAs under one umbrella.

On 30.4.1950 a meeting was held at Zahira College with 67 delegates from 17 YMMAs and the All Ceylon YMMA Conference was inaugurated with A.M.A. Azeez as President and Lafir Cassim as Secretary. It was a historic day. Many leading Muslims joined and supported the movement. In April 1952 the Annual Convention was held at Zahira College and a banquet was held later at “Meadow Sweet” the residence of Azeez. Soon after the first meeting, with the guidance of Azeez the Constitution, Motto, Crest, Anthem and Colour were agreed.

The Main objective of the Constitution was “to aim at developing a generation of men worthy of the highest traditions of Islam and capable of the highest deeds to serve their country in every branch of modern life”. The Association was incorporated on 22.6.1968 by Act of Parliament No. 31 of 1968. It is recognized as an Approved Charity for tax purposes.

The Motto introduced was what was offered by the late Mohamed Ali Jinnah namely FAITH, UNITY, DISCIPLINE. The Crest was introduced with the top portion to show the  KA’BA to denote Islam in the world and the chain around for unity. The lower portion represented Sri Lanka showing Adam’s Peak. The star in the crest was intended to represent the five principles of Islam namely Belief, Prayer, Fasting, Zakat and Hajj. The colours were green and white. The Anthem was brought from Egypt.

The All Ceylon YMMA Conference is the premier Muslim youth NGO in Sri Lanka and continues to render yeoman service with over 100 branches in the Island. To commemorate its Golden Jubilee a stamp was issued in the year 2000.

The All Ceylon YMMA Conference was another pet project of A.M.A. Azeez. He was President during the first three years. Nevertheless his valuable advice and guidance was sought after until his demise on 24th November 1973.

(Khalid M. Farouk was a past President of the YMMA and is the Secretary of the Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation. He was a student of Zahira College during the Azeez era) 

Azeez, President and Committee of the YMMA, Kandy in 1945

Ummu and Azeez at reception by YMMA Port Said Branch, Egypt in 1947

Inaugural meeting of the All Ceylon YMMA Conference at Zahira College on 30.4.1950

YMMA Convention Dinner at ‘Meadow Sweet’ in 1952

Opening ceremony of YMMA Headquarters in 1956

Opening ceremony of YMMA Headquarters in 1956